My favorite holiday of the year is finally here.
Food, family, football - you get it all on Thanksgiving, and you get it in large portions.
I'll be heading back home to the Silver Spring area to spent time with my family and have a big dinner tonight, but before I do so, I'll be making the requisite stop at Ravens headquarters this afternoon.
It might be Thanksgiving, but the Ravens still have a game in three days, so they'll hold a late-morning practice and then the players will be allowed to head out shortly after 1:00 p.m.
In the holiday spirit, I thought I'd make a short list of what the Ravens have to be thankful for this year. Feel free to add your own thoughts to my list in the comment section below.
Sizzle's bounce-back season
After posting the most disappointing season of his career last year, Terrell Suggs came into training camp this summer motivated to put the frustrations of 2009 behind him. Through 10 games this season, the outside linebacker/defensive end has been a savior to a Ravens pass rush which without Suggs would have little-to-no pressure off the edges. Suggs has bounced back from a 4.5 sack campaign last year and has registered 7.5 sacks already this season. That's good for 40 percent of the Ravens' sacks as a team.
Billy Cundiff's career revival
Cundiff has gone from out of work, to battling for a job, to a possible Pro Bowler in the span of about 12 months. The former Cowboy was out of the NFL for two years in 2007 and 2008, and was left working at a venture capital firm. Cundiff joined the Ravens mid-season last year, earned the full-time kicking job in training camp this season, and has dominated since, leading the NFL in touchbacks (29) and converting 85 percent of his field goal tries. His booming leg and improved accuracy could be a major weapon for the Ravens down the stretch.
Young talent on the offensive side of the ball
In an era where teams with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations seemingly need to have the ability to score at least 25 points a game, the Ravens have put together the foundations of an offense which could be feared for years to come. They've got a third-year franchise quarterback who is developing and learning every week, a third-year running back who made a Pro Bowl last season, a second-year left tackle who could anchor this offensive line for the next 8-10 years, and two promising rookie tight ends.
Sam Koch, plain and simple
There isn't really much to say here, other than the fact that the Ravens' punter quietly gets the job done every single week. Koch is as consistent as can be, and he constantly helps the Ravens flip field position and pin their opponents deep in their own territory. Come playoff time, Koch's impact will become even more evident.
The anti-Jared Gaither
No real offense is intended to Gaither here, but everything he hasn't been for the last six months - healthy, dependable, hard-working - Marshal Yanda has been. And without Yanda, the Ravens could be in real trouble. The fourth-year man out of Iowa moved from right guard to right tackle in training camp when Gaither suffered a back injury, and he's done such a good job solidifying that tackle spot that the coaches don't want to move him back to guard, where they thought he was playing at a Pro Bowl level last year.
A group of selfless running backs
It might be easy for Ray Rice or Willis McGahee to complain about having to split the workload at running back. Heck, even fullback Le'Ron McClain, who was the Ravens' leading rusher in 2008, could whine about a lack of touches. But other than a few semi-sarcastic, semi-serious comments from McClain (who launched a "McClain 4 RB" campaign on Twitter), this group hasn't said a peep to that effect. All three are good friends, and while some players around the league - and even some on the Ravens - make a fuss and create controversy when they don't get the ball enough, these three Pro Bowl backs are fine with sharing the rock amongst each other.
Beyond all that, I know that personally, I'm thankful for the opportunity the fine folks at MASN have given me in letting me run with this blog, and I definitely appreciate all of you for checking in with me and making it a fun, rewarding experience.
I hope everyone has a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. Enjoy the football today - if you can pry yourself away from the food long enough to catch some of the action - and check in with me later for a few extra updates from The Castle.